Friday, March 2, 2012

Day 5: Getting your groove on

Lord Shiva, master of limb independence
and wicked drummer to boot.

Friday, March 2, 2012
Led Primary Series
Instructor: Deborah Carruthers
6:30 – 8:00 a.m.

It was a little tougher getting out of bed this morning. The dogs were snuggled in tight against the chill in the air brought on by the rain and it took some effort to break away from that comfort. Once I was up though, I felt good. My knee feels strong today. Showing it love for the past few days in and out of practice seems to be helping things. I've even started focussing on it while hiking with the dogs, making sure my kneecap is lifted before my foot hits the ground.

After my first full week of Mysore, every single physical motion has become amplified and I seem to be reaching a new level of body awareness. I spoke with both Debs (my wife Debbie, and my teacher Deborah) about this the other day. As an aside, it's been really nice to have a partner who also practices yoga to discuss and reflect with. When I get home after Mysore, Debbie has usually finished her at-home practice and greets me with a warm breakfast and hot coffee. We've taken to sitting and talking about the different challenges, discoveries and breakthroughs we have both encountered in our individual practice. It's been a great way to share, and to help integrate the practice before starting the rest of the day.


I've been discovering a correlation between the "yoga body awareness" as I experience it, and the kind of physical independence you need to develop to play a drum kit, or, as we did in music school, do things like sing a melody while tapping out polyrhythms with your hands and feet.

In the beginning, it can be a massive struggle to first separate your awareness into each of these different areas, maintaining the independent action of one while perhaps shifting focus to another that might need adjustment. For instance, while learning to play a drum beat, I'll usually start with the bass drum pattern (the root, or core), get that going to a point where I no longer need to pay strict attention to it, then shift focus to the hi-hat pattern (which, in a simple beat, provides a constant meter throughout the measure), then once it and the bass drum are "locked in", I'll add the accents with the snare. Once the foundation of the bass drum and hi-hat are solid, it feels a lot easier to play around accents that may be "off beat". While you may not be focussing directly on "core" of the beat, a part of your brain is still working to keep them solid and unwavering but you can kind of let go of them and put your focus where it's needed more, on the less rigid accents.

When working on a pose, I often go through the exact same method. For example — I'm currently building up to do a full revolved triangle pose (Parivrtta Trikonasana), and I'll always start with getting my feet into the proper position, then rotating my hips around to square, and then work my hand down to a block placed inside my foot. It's only when I have all those core elements working properly — legs fully engaged, knees lifted, outside edge of back foot grounded, rear hip moving back — that I'll then attempt to lift my opposing hand to the sky and follow it with my drishti. Sometimes I never make it that far, and that's okay with me. It's more important for me that I have a solid foundation, knowing that the "accents" will come later, really letting the asana sing it's beautiful song throughout my body.


Check out this video, try it for yourself, and see if you can feel the similarity to working on asanas:


Here's a video of drum guru Buddy Rich demonstrating a Shiva-like mastery of limb independence (while always maintaining a solid core!)


Get your groove on!


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